Legit considered just leaving that as the whole review but as you all know I am never one to shy away from caps lock or emotions so I will of course review this episode.
To the directors’ and cinematographers’ and actors’ credit, this episode was stun-ning. And not in a jokey “thank God it was daytime” way but yes that too. This had to be a Bear and the Maiden Fair to shoot (ya girl got puns for DAYS okay yes I’m sorry) and you made it so good, guys. All the praise from my Long Night review and none of the criticism for the visuals on their own.
I’ll hit my couple high notes here and then I’ll be wrecking the place so don’t you worry. There were high notes, imo, and I’m doing my best here to note things that are going right. This is both for my benefit so I don’t get absolutely despondent after next week and because I don’t want to turn into a person who hates something because it is cool to hate it. However, I will hate things that are bad and there was SO MUCH BAD THINGS, GUYS
FIRSTLY, All The/Small Things
Bro is pushing for that 20th Emmy nom here, and in his scene with Jaime, I think he snagged it. They’ve kinda torched his character over the last few seasons and he seems more like a heist movie’s wisecracking computer hacker than anything substantive, but his scene with Nikolaj was really quite beautiful. I hated 90 percent of the lines in this episode and everything they had Jaime say, but “tens of thousands of innocent lives versus one not-so-innocent dwarf” was a hell of a thing to watch, and his identifying Jaime as the only one in his childhood who didn’t look at him like he was a monster was prime weeping territory. We are incredibly lucky to have this man in this role and I’m genuinely gonna miss him.
Arya and Sandor’s scene
Not going to address the entire “what was the point of Arya coming all this way” thing (the point was to give us a man-on-the-ground that’s literally it) (also how long does it take to get from the North to King’s Landing and where did they learn to tesser) because that’s a part of the larger failure of this episode. But Maisie and Rory made this an absolutely beautiful thing, and I could feel the Hound’s need to protect her when he feels like he failed before. And Arya calling him “Sandor” and saying “thank you” no YOU’RE CRYING. He’s not nice about it, he isn’t going to tell her he loves her, he isn’t going to tell her she is important or valuable, he’s not even going to make sure she gets out safely. But he is going to encourage her to live, and to not be him.
We watched Sandor keep Arya alive so many times in this series: at the Red Wedding, when she murders Freys, when she takes Needle back, and even in a fight against Brienne, which he thought was a threat to her life. He doesn’t value himself much, but he values Arya as a less-damaged possible tiny him. To me, it’s like she found the sweet spot he wishes he could live in: he doesn’t trust people who are too noble or kind or good, but he also doesn’t just kill for felony funsies, and that’s Arya. He can’t fix the world, it’s too damaged and always was, but maybe he can fix this tiny piece of it enough to let her live. He wants Arya to be alive, and that in and of itself is remarkable, because he is not particularly dedicated to anyone being alive, and that includes himself. It’s that ray of hope, that street justice, that tiny island in a sea of apathy and pessimism, and it’s contained in her. I love Sandor, I always have, and if I don’t stop myself, I’ll end up with a dissertation on this scene alone. Sandor was never the stereotypical narrative diamond in the rough. He was fucked up, he’d been fucked up since childhood and never had a chance, and you couldn’t dig deep enough into him and find a heart of gold. But you would find a heart, and that makes the difference.
…shoot what did I say about cutting off the dissertation whoops still goin’
This was good, guys. I’ve seen some people not like even this part of the episode, and I genuinely don’t get that dislike. This is what I wanted.
I get that people thought it was a bit too stylized, and I can understand that, especially when we are holding the Mountain and the Viper battle and Sandor v. Brienne in our heads, which had no backing music or even much backing sounds, and were just gristly and disgusting and full of organic noises only, rather than all of those things plus dragon fire and a dramatic staircase.
But I, frankly, loved it. The horror reveal of Zombie Gregor (can someone remind me if he got called Ser Robert Strong in the show? I cannot remember) was a very nice level of disgusting, and thank you to the makeup and costuming department and the Icelandic brick that is Bjornsson. I recently found out he is younger than I am and I am really incredibly bothered by this and I cannot explain why.
And Rory. RORY. You goddamn perfect Sandor, I don’t know how to talk about you without getting worked up and frankly a little bit teary-eyed. In a cast full of incredible actors and perfect casting, you still stood out in every scene, even when you had no lines or movement. You embodied that strength-plus-utter-despair combination that is Sandor Clegane so well. Your lines with Tyrion and Joffrey during the Battle of the Blackwater were incredible (specifically “I lost half my men, the Blackwater is on fire” gave me chills and still does), and he has one line from Season 1, I think, with Sansa, where she calls him awful, and he says “I’m honest. It’s the world that’s awful.” He embodied this 95% hatred 3% let’s kill people 2% hope that is the Hound down to his bones, and to have his last words be “fucking DIE” to his brother were perfect. These two men have no finesse, just the sweaty, gross strength of the biggest and drunkest guy at the bar at 1:45 AM on a Friday, and they will hack at each other until the heat death of the universe. Just…goddamn, I loved this scene.
I’m so sorry, this post is gonna be mostly Sandor Clegane and rage. Anyway, those were the big things, and yeah, visually, this episode was a hellllll of a thing. Hire these people for whatever you’re making next, because even though I was bananas frustrated about the plot, I still got chillingly claustrophobic and nervous at the cinematography.
Aight let’s do this anger thing
Okay, ARE THEY POWERFUL, OR ARE THEY NOT. I was happy to see Drogon roast the Black Pearl Jam and his Assorted Merry Boats or whatever the hell they are because yeah, if he’s swooping and flaming they have no chance to get a shot off, and definitely not if he’s at the waterline: can’t fire shooty spears horizontally. And then he goes on to wreck the rest of the shooty spears, and the armies, and everything. I’m not mad about this! This was it, this is what dragons did, this is why the Targaryens were in charge for so long, because when everyone else was messing around with Nerf guns they brought RPGs that can fly. No one had a chance.
I’m angry that we lost Viserion stupidly and Rhaegal even more stupidly and Rhaegal got airstabbed TWICE like that is a likely thing to happen instead of Lake Placid in 1980. In this world, the dragons win. They just do. Anything other than this is wrong and bad
I don’t even… sigh. I know he gets to call out “I told you so” from the afterlife or whatever but please, he didn’t know that she was going to go HAM on King’s Landing because there was no character development. Was he trying to poison her? Why didn’t he fight any of his previous monarchs hard at all, including Aerys? Why were we denied one last campy, shady as fuck scene between him and Littlefinger? Both of them are not characters I particularly cared about, but they are both smart, and we knocked them both off with “tried to commit treason sloppily.” I don’t even know what I wanted for Varys, but it wasn’t this.
Jaime and Cersei
Launch this shit directly into the sun, I refuse to have it. I held out hope until the very last second, and I mean the very last second: as the bricks were coming down I was hoping he’d knife her in the ribs.
I know that valonqar was books only; I know that these two genuinely loved each other. I know that the last moments they had were really, really well-acted by Lena and Nikolaj: I wasn’t happy with the scene at all and I still felt (if not actually sad) a bit choked up over people in pain.
Everything else was bad. We’ve worked for 6 or so seasons to watch Jaime slowly chip away at his absence of caring. Much of that work was with Brienne and for Brienne, but certainly not all, and despite the disaster that was Season 5 and the from concentrate disaster that was Jaime’s Season 5 Dorne plotline, he was acting in defense of his child whom he hasn’t spent much time protecting in the past. And I have to, I must, bring up the bath scene from season 3: God, it’s just so perfect, and it is important because it shows this golden shiny fucker cared from a while back: Aerys II was going to burn the city, and Jaime killed him and his pyromancers to stop it. (I had some people try to say that this was pure self-interest because Aerys told Jaime to bring him Tywin’s head, and Jaime was not going to, but then why kill the pyromancers, why slay a king when you know what it will look like to the outside world, and why never tell anyone the good you did because they’ve already chosen to hate you. Not here for this.)
And then, after we’ve watched him sacrifice his hand and fight a bear and make Brienne armor and a sword and try to save his children and try to talk reason into Cersei and abandon her to go fight in a battle against frozen death that he thinks he won’t survive only to return, get captured, and once his brother has spoken of the tens of thousands of innocent people in King’s Landing, tell him with a goddamn straight face, “I never cared about them all that much.” WHAT ARE YOU SAYING?! YES YOU DO! YOUR WHOLE KINGSLAYER IDENTITY AND POSSIBLE REDEMPTION IS BASED ON THIS! This isn’t even “hey, as a bookreader I saw this plot line/character development turn out differently.” This is “your written dialogue says the opposite of what the character canonically has done. He cared so much he killed a king and sacrificed his reputation for it. This was bad and sloppy and stupid. This isn’t me being blind to the actual faults of Jaime Lannister; this is the writers failing to understand what they wrote in their introduction while writing their conclusion. But yeah, “themes are for book reports,” B&W. They’re also sometimes needed to not trip over your own goddamn feet while staring off into the distance at a mirage of glory. Hear me fucking RAGE, goddammit.
At last, I can rest, I suppose. I enjoyed reading a brief interview with Pilou Asbaek who plays Euron, as he said you can only play a character like his once in a lifetime because he’s “such a fucking idiot,” and I like that a lot. I’ve never really had a problem with the actor, which is true of basically everyone on the show: they are doing what is written really well. And how can I possibly shame an actor for getting a part where you will never, ever, ever be told that you need to rein it in.
Pilou: is that too much, or
Director: yes, but keep it up
Director: in fact even more, do more
But what was the point, what was the goddamn POINT. This doofus collection of seaweed and AXE body spray and outstanding gambling debts and the knowledge that he’s never satisfied a woman just magically manages to not get Boston Market-ed by Drogon, swims a fuckin’ Iron Man swim portion to get to the beach, and strolls up right as Jaime is about to head it? Oh okay, sure. And Jaime is unphased by his information that he slept with Cersei? Sure. And this is a fair fight? One dude who’s walked a little vs another who has swum away from fire? Jaime should destroy him. Also broski you killed Rhaegal and like, Dorne, but go off about Jaime literally no one cares. If you want your last words to sound like you’re a salty War Boy from Fury Road, that is your choice, Mr. Whiny and Chrome. Plus you’re wrong a castle fell on him. I’m so tired, you guys, I’m SO tired.
“and playing in left field tonight, it’s every decision”
As a brief thing, Arya’s plot armor. Her scenes were great, but hearing the showrunners say that we need to be with her as she tries to escape because she’s a person we care about is wrong and says kind of messed up things about the viewers. If you put us with that mother and daughter trying to escape their own violent, horrific deaths, we wouldn’t care? That’s untrue and dudes I hope you don’t feel that way. Again, stunningly shot and acted but whattttt.
Just…just a mess, y’all. An absolute mess. Dany’s entire switch over to Big Mad was handled with all the finesse of a toddler in a bathtub and they are acting like they did something subversive and brilliant rather than just layer a lot of Targaryen madness quotes on top of each other like that makes a fucking plot line somehow. I knew from that second on we were in for some bullshit but I didn’t realize on what scale. Again, I am okay with her eventually becoming the Mad Queen that some seem to think she will be. I’m not okay with 100 minutes of weak setup including “my nephew bae won’t bone me anymore” as valid and complete reasons for her to snap and kill people. Of course she’s burned people alive before, of course she has. But they have been slavers, and the owner of the Unsullied, and traitors, and sworn enemies, and wights, and a whole host of things that are not good things and were in active rebellion against her. She’s not nice, but she’s not a horrorshow. But some bells go off and she’s full-out berserker. Credit to Emilia for acting the hell out of this one on a green screen with no other actors with her because it is her talent alone that let us buy any of this. It’s just so goshdarn bad and we watched her incinerate people for everrrrrr. Including the Golden Company and serious question did Harry Strickland have any lines or was his role to just have good bone structure like
And then there’s this whole thing. They see the dragon start burninating the city for no reason. So, according to the writers, the next logical step for the incredibly loyal Northmen and the iconically well-regulated and obedient unto death Unsullied just lose it and decide to go HAM on Lannister armies. The fucking fuck was this fucking mess.
Why would they do this? Why? You see your leader do a thing that is not good so you are like “yeah let’s keep fighting in the city she’s actively burning against an army that has surrendered. And Jon is telling his forces, who are just joined at the hip according to Varys and a bunch of other characters because Jon and his hemmed pants are the absolute best at everything and they would die for him, to fall back and stop fighting and oh look they don’t. Grey Worm is angry and broken, but he’s not going to kill a surrendered Lannister. But that’s exactly what he did. And the Northmen might now be Unsullied, but they are gonna listen to Jon, and they don’t, and neither do the Unsullied, so we just get a ton of war crimes that are beautifully lit and costumed and directed but holy God it was like half an hour of war crimes that shouldn’t have even been happening!!!! It’s like they’re annoying hipsters and “we thought of war crimes before our audience look at how cool we are” NO
YOU’RE NOT COOL AND I DON’T LIKE YOUR CHOICES
Some additional reactionary stuff because I am extra
Just yesterday I read my favorite thinkpiece on why the last set of seasons and especially this on have felt like such a mess. And I hate to even call it a thinkpiece, because other than its relevance to this current super popular show, it is just really good literary and media analysis. It can be found here, and after you’re done reading this blog, turn on your actual brainpower and go spend some quality time with it, because you’re worth it and so is this story.
I’d also like to address the frustrating arguments I’m seeing all over the internet that are, at heart, logic-poor “u mad bro” over and over. There’s an annoying aspect to this in that over and over people (and women especially but that’s another day) are taught that the person who cares least wins, so if you are like “it’s just a show calm down” you win because you are Jeff Bridges Chill while also being a dismissive dick. Below are the greatest hits.
“you’re mad about realism? the show has dragons lol”
Ah, yes, my apologies. Only shows that take place on Earth with no fantasy elements are subject to any sort of narrative rules. It’s ridiculous for people to expect that characters that are essentially like us just in medieval sort-of-magic land behave with any kind of continuity. Plus, I feel like a large number of people saying this have also frothed at the mouth re: Star Wars at least once. The movies have swords made out of light and you’re worried about realism? lolol yeah see I sound like an asshole too.
If people were getting mad about “no, the White Walkers shouldn’t be able to do whatever magic thing they did” then yeah, you get to use the dragons rule. Complaining about the fantasy elements being fantastic deserves this criticism. Otherwise, you’re missing the entire point deliberately and I am pretty sure you got upset at the finale of Lost. y u mad the show has like monsters and shit lol
“if you hate it so much stop watching it”
Please tell that to Pittsburgh Pirates fans, or like, Detroit. Or most sports teams in history at some point who still managed to attract fans. We watch for the hope, and the fact that good things have happened in the past. There is potential for something really great to happen, and we won’t know until it shows up on TV.
Also just to catch you up on the past like 3 years of life, it is frequently fun to hate things in a jolly way. We are all going to drown in a sea of nonbiodegradeable plastic and tears in like 20 years and I’ll be damned if I don’t make some jokes before that happens.
“it’s Game of Thrones, did you think it would end all happy?”
*gif of Ramsay saying if you think this has a happy ending…*
Oh, my paws and whiskers, shut the fuck up. Yeah, this show is violent and cruel and the good guys don’t win all the time; they frequently don’t. But to act like this is an excuse to let bad storytelling happen means you missed the entire goddamn point.
The main characters, the “good guys,” if there is such a thing, the “heroes,” are at risk. They are not guaranteed to die. You’re afraid for them because they might die, but you don’t know, and anything could happen. It might be something kind of okay, like a character living to see another day. Otherwise we might as well just make The Human Centipede: Medieval Times and call it a day because if you think this has a happy ending, you haven’t been paying attention fart noise fart noise airhorn blehblehbleh. We aren’t looking for happiness or even satisfaction, we just want a character-driven show to be driven by character. We were sad about the Red Wedding but we weren’t complaining because it worked.
Plus if the happy has violence in it the people saying the above shit are super fine with it
Brienne getting knighted is sentimental un-Thrones-y trash
Arya managing to kill every Frey, somehow, by herself, was super great and fine
“seriously? I totally knew Dany was going Mad Queen, you’re just upset that you missed the signs”
I didn’t miss shit, bruh. I have not spent, at this point, collective weeks of my life analyzing the books and this show to have you step to me like “maybe you missed something” because you can’t get aroused without the presence of an unearned feeling of pride. That’s your issue.
Of course, of COURSE she could go Mad Queen. Targs aren’t born mad, they usually take a bunch of years to get there while hinting at it along the way. And in the books, where she is a POV character, we hear her narration, in which she has both moments of calm and peace where she doesn’t want to be like her mad ancestors and worries that her behavior may be that way, and we have moments of her violence, in which she thinks “just torch the place.” Right now, she’s on the sane side in ADWD, but yeah, I can see the story arc-ing towards her ultimately being mad.
But thus far, there’s been so fucking little to indicate her heelturn that to hear someone smugly type that they’re right, they know they’re right, they guess they knew it all along is NOPE-ITY NOPE NOPE.
One more of these, y’all. I’ve still had a blast watching a majority of the show, and I’ve loved interacting with people about it, and I’ve (mostly lol) enjoyed writing these posts. Help me figure out what to watch next, and don’t let me catch you on one of those petitions to redo the last season: there’s frustration, and then there’s “DANCE TO MY WILL, SERVANTS” and that is gross. You are allowed to not like things, but if you’re gonna petition for something make it like, single-payer health care or affordable housing. This is not a real problem. Here’s to tonight; it’s been a hell of a ride.